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Possibly consumed HIV+ blood while actively bleeding in the mouth?

Question: 

Hi there,

I've read up on a lot of your answers about oral transmission, and needless to say, I'm still anxious. I was snacking on a vegetable when I looked down and noticed that it had blood in it. I also realized that I was bleeding from the gums (actively). I know that HIV dies when exposed to air, but what about if someone injected HIV+ blood into the vegetable? Would consuming it put me at any risk, given that it was in a "sealed" space, and then put into my mouth which was currently bleeding? I also realize that saliva breaks the virus down, however, I didn't have much it the time and was chewing rather "dry." Please help. Feeling really anxious and need to know if I should PEP or not.

Answer: 

Hi there, and thanks a lot for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline for you HIV/AIDS related health information.

It sounds like you are concerned about you risk of HIV transmission after eating a vegetable possibly containing blood.

The situation that you have described is a No Risk situation. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • HIV is a Human-to-Human virus. It cannot be transmitted to you by an object or food, such as a vegetable.

  • HIV needs a human host to survive. Once HIV is outside of the body and exposed to oxygen it can no longer transmit. The blood that you may have found in the vegetable was outside of the human body, exposed to oxygen and therefore, was not able to transmit HIV to you.

  • Saliva has an enzyme that inhibits the transmission of HIV. The vegetable would have come into contact with your saliva and the enzyme within it while you chewed and swallowed.

  • HIV needs direct access to your bloodstream in order to transmit. There was no direct access to your bloodstream. Superficial cuts, such as the your bleeding gums, simply do not provide the conditions necessary for transmission to occur. For superficial cuts to potential provide direct access to the bloodstream, they would have to be actively bleeding and in need of stitches or surgery to repair. From what I understand, this was not the case in your situation.

PEP is usually encouraged in high risk exposures, and has to be taken within 72 hours of the exposure. Since your situation is considered No Risk, PEP is not encouraged in this situation.

I would encourage you to check out the following resources about HIV:

Thank you for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline.

Hilary

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online

helpline.aidsvancouver.org